The St. Louis Cardinals finished the 2013 season with the best record in the National League. They won 97 games on their way to a postseason that would now find the city of St. Louis as the backdrop thanks to home field advantage.
Baseball, at its heart, is a game of numbers. From advanced statistics to basic "counting stats," fans are trained to focus on the numbers a player or team achieves to judge success. As the dust settled on the 2013 season for the St. Louis Cardinals, there were many numbers that defined the club's campaign.
All statistics via baseball-reference.com.
The season became known for the number of rookie pitchers that the team used. None of the rookie pitchers were as dominant, impressive, or historic as Trevor Rosenthal.
Rosenthal would pitch in 74 games in the regular season compiling 75.1 innings. The impressive number was his 108 strikeouts in those innings. That number is good for 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings and an impressive 5.4 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
On September 19, Rosenthal became just the second Cardinal reliever to strikeout 100 batters in a season and the official Twitter account of the club acknowledged it quickly.
Trevor Rosenthal strikes out his 100th batter becoming the 2nd Cardinals reliever to with 100 K's in a season (Mark Littell, 120, 1978).— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 19, 2013
Yadier Molina is regarded by many as the team leader for the St. Louis Cardinals. His ability to take the field on a consistent basis may be the most impressive part of Molina's game. In the midst of a season that had many fans leading the charge for an eventual MVP Award, Molina compiled a shocking 1,115.1 innings. That is over 40 more innings more than any other catcher in the National League. To put that further into perspective, the Cardinals played in 344.2 innings with someone not named Molina behind the plate.
Molina's leadership with a young pitching staff as well as his offensive contributions are impressive, but his ability to stay on the field and play at the level he does sets him apart.
Matt Carpenter entered the 2013 season as a player in a new position and a big question mark for the Cardinals and manager Mike Matheny. By the end of the season, all eyes were on Carpenter as he tried to get his 200th hit of the season.
Carpenter would finish the year with 199 hits, which led Major League Baseball, and more respect than anyone could have predicted. As noted by MLB.com, he set a single-season record for a Cardinals' left-handed hitter by driving 55 doubles. He would also led Major League Baseball with 126 runs and 63 multi-hit games. Add to that his 112 hits at home, which set the record for hits in a season at Busch Stadium III, and Matt Carpenter had the most statistically impressive season of any Cardinal.
Fans love to point out that Matt Holliday is not "clutch" despite what the numbers prove every season. His power numbers were down this year, but Derrick Goold of StlToday.com shared this bit of information about the consistency of the Cardinal left fielder:
Matt Holliday, who did not play Sunday, finished the season with a .300 average and his 10th consecutive season of at least a .290 average, his eighth with at least 85 RBIs, and his fourth with more than 100 runs scored.
I don't know if that's "clutch", but it is as consistent as any player on this team.
Randy Choate was tagged as the left-handed specialist for the team coming into 2013. What they got was a pitcher that was so stingy that he stranded 50 inherited baserunners before the season was over.
Choate, as noted by StlToday.com's Rick Hummel, inherited 59 runners this season and would leave 50 of them on the bases at the end of his work. He pitched the entire season without surrendering a single home run and would hold left handed hitters to a paltry .176 batting average. Not bad for a 38-year-old free agent addition to the team.
The stat that Cardinal fans heard more than any other throughout the season was the team's ability to hit with runners in scoring position, or RiSP. The team finished the year with a .330 RiSP average, 19 points higher than the previous record in Major League Baseball, set by the 2007 Detroit Tigers and the 1996 Colorado Rockies.
The team's RiSP average was impressive, but Allen Craig, who was sidelined with a lisfranc foot injury before completing the season, posted an amazing .454 RiSP average over 152 qualifying plate appearances.
The Cardinals may have to survive the postseason without another appearance from Allen Craig but I seriously doubt they would have enjoyed as much success had he not been as impressive during the season.
Losing Allen Craig was nearly decimating for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. The only reason it did not hurt the club's chances at a postseason run was the emergence of Matt Adams.
Craig would be lost for the season on September 4th when he fractured his foot rounding first base. Adams would step in that game and hit two go-ahead home runs in extra innings, the first player to ever accomplish that feat in Major League history, and give the Cardinals continued production at first base the rest of the season. From the time Craig went down injured, Adams would hit .326 with a .629 slugging percentage while clubbing 8 home runs and driving in 15 runs. Overall, Adams would post a .284 batting average, .503 slugging percentage, 17 home runs and 51 runs batted in over 296 at bats.
The future looks bright for the man that has become known as "Big City."
If Adam Wainwright's plan for 2013 was to prove that he had fully recovered from his 2011 Tommy John surgery, he did so in a big way.
Wainwright led the National League with 19 wins and an astronomical 241.2 innings pitched. He would also lead the league with 34 starts, 5 complete games, and 2 shutouts. His 219 strikeouts helped him move further up the franchise leader board in that category, passing his mentor Chris Carpenter in the process. None of those numbers were the most impressive however.
Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth covered Wainwright's decision to have fewer walks than starts in his inclusive August article.
"I don't set many goals for myself," Wainwright told me before Wednesday night's game between the Cardinals and Dodgers in St. Louis. "But my goal before the season was to have fewer walks than starts. And I think that's a pretty reachable number, in my mind."
Wainwright would miss that goal but not by much. He would finish the 2013 season with 35 walks, one more than his aforementioned 34 starts. Despite a failed goal, it was a remarkable result.